Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Ibae: Carlos "Patato" Valdés

Patato (L) and Totico, c. 1967
Photo credit: Martin Cohen,

Carlos "Patato" Valdés passed away last night and the tributes to this influential master will be many and well-justified.

His achievements were numerous, but around here he will always be remembered most for his 1967 recording "Patato y Totico," one of the all-time great rumba recordings. If you don't have it, get it. If you have it already, put it on and enjoy.

Also be sure to visit Martin Cohen's excellent photo tribute to Patato.


Anonymous said...

Barry, what do you think i'm listening to today? none other than the landmark Patato y Totico album, which you have mentioned. Great album, and Verve deserves credit for putting out such a crystal clear reissue (some company out of Florida put out a reissue in the 90's that was just horrible), those who don't have it, need to get a copy, because this album is timeless...i think its worth mentioning that out of all the rumberos on that album, possibly 3 are still around, Totico, Tony Mayari are still alive, and its possible that one of the Cadavieco brothers are still alive...

They say it's a cold world said...

I'm sorry to get this news this way and so late; I need to check your excellent blog more often. But I thank you for posting it. It is a tragedy that outside of the latin scene Patato remained little enough known that his passing seems to have been all but missed by the major media. Where is the New York Times? Was there an obituary? I can't find it through Google. Clearly the significance of percussion and of Patato in particular remains ghettoized at the edge of our mainstream culture even while I know that there were thousands, not just uptown and in the Bronx, but across the world, who would have instantly recognized the little man if they saw him walking down the street in an oversized beret.

I remember him some years ago at Central Park Summerstage in front of thousands of people, sliding out onto the stage in mid-tune, and while the band was tearing along, calmly and casually tilting his ear down towards the surface of his congas, slapping them gently and tuning them up, taking his time, before leaping into the action, as relaxed as if he had just happened to come out of a bronx apartment building to find a comparsa churning down the street. He looked immortal and vigorous, and I remember us then wonder how old he must already be.

On another occasion I had the great luck to see him step out onto the stage at Symphony Space on the upper west side and seamlessly jam with the Muñequitos de Matanzas. Although this didn't pack the political punch that it would have back in the 1970s, even in the new millennium this was a definite political act, an announcement that to him, at least, the embargo and the anger in Miami and all the other tortured elements of America's twisted relationship with Cuba meant nothing compared with the brotherhood of the rumba. I don't think it is my romantic notion to think that you could see in his eyes that he was happy then, and that despite his thousands of sessions playing on decades of latin and jazz and latin jazz recordings, the rumba remained what he most wanted to play, the music most real to him.

Barry said...

Nice to hear from you again. Thanks for sharing those memories. The NY Times obit can be found here.


Anonymous said...

Patato's passing is a great loss...the landmark album Patato Y Totico, has standed the test of time and still remains one of the few "must have" rumba lps....his quinto work was always exceptional, and his energy was contagious...i only wish i could've seen him live once....Barry I think its safe to say that along w/ Totico and Tony Mayari, only the both or one? of the Cadavieco brothers are still around....

Bongos not bombs said...

I just wanted to say how much I am enjoying this blog.

I feel huge regret not seeing Patato's, last show in my town of SF, I had the chance and had passed it up for whatever reason.

I won't make the same mistake, Francisco Aguabella is playing on the 2nd. I will be there and thinking of Patato.

One assumes these elder percussionists will always be around to see, sadly it is not the case and sometimes they pass all too soon (Anga). I am sad to have missed Patato, I won't miss another.

They say it's a cold world said...

Thanks for the link to the NYT obituary. It seemed inconceivable that there hadn't been one, but Google news and a search of the NYT came up short for me. I guess I was a little late, or search impaired.
Happy New Year and continued thanks for the excellent blog. I can only cross my fingers and hope that in 2008 there won't be so many funerals of the old great players.

Also wanted to signal what I think is an incredible recording, and a session I can't seem to find out anything about, the LP of truncated rumbas apparently done by Patato with Cortijo, with Orlando Contreras singing. It's simply called Guaguanco. If you have any information on how this record came to be was made I'd love to know.